The Double-Z battery is again a big-league possibility.
The Mariners activated right-handed reliever Tony Zych from the disabled list prior to Friday’s series opener against Texas at Safeco Field after clearing roster space by optioning left-hander Dillon Overton to Triple-A Tacoma.
Zych, 26, made two rehab appearances at Tacoma as the final step in his recovery from October surgery for a biceps tendon transfer. He missed most of last season because of an ailing shoulder.
Club officials became convinced Zych was ready to return Wednesday after watching him pitch one simulated inning against hitters in a mid-afternoon session at Safeco Field.
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"It feels strong," Zych said, "and I’ve been working it pretty hard since the surgery. Everything is good."
Alphabetically, Zych and catcher Mike Zunino are the last two players currently on major-league rosters.
Overton, 25, made the roster in large part because the Mariners opted to open the season with an eight-man bullpen — although he didn’t actually start the season on the 25-man roster. He missed the first three games while on paternity leave.
Since returning, Overton appeared in two games and allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings. The decision to send him to Tacoma isn’t surprising because club officials indicated all along they believe he fits best as a starting pitcher for the long term.
"We carried him because we weren’t quite sure where our starters were at coming out of spring training," manager Scott Servais said. "We wanted to make sure we had enough length in there.
"Guys (in the rotation) have thrown the ball pretty well. Now it’s time to make a move."
Activating Zych is the Mariners’ second move this week to tweak a bullpen that compiled a 7.71 ERA over 35 combined appearances through the season’s first 10 games.
The Mariners recalled right-hander Evan Marshall prior to Wednesday’s 10-5 loss to Houston after removing right-hander Casey Fien from the 40-man roster by sending him to Tacoma on an outright assignment after he cleared waivers.
Zych provides the bullpen with another right-hander capable of pitching in the mid-90s alongside closer Edwin Diaz, Dan Altavilla and Marshall.
"Early reports, maybe not in the high 90s," Servais said. "But we all know he’s got a very good secondary pitch with the slider and good movement on the fastball. He’s got plenty to get big-league hitters out."
FRY TRADED TO ORIOLES
The Mariners traded lefty reliever Paul Fry to Baltimore for $198,000 in international signing money for the period that runs through July 1.
The move came three days after Fry, 24, was designated for assignment to create space for infielder Mike Freeman on the 40-man roster. Freeman was then recalled from Tacoma to replace injured Jean Segura on the 25-man active roster.
Fry allowed four runs and six hits over two innings in his only appearance this season Tacoma. He compiled a 2.76 ERA in 150 minor-league outings over four previous seasons following his selection in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB Draft.
Gaining Baltimore’s slot value for pick No. 105 provides the Mariners with greater flexibility in the international market. Clubs that exceed their allotted pool money are subject to penalties, including a reduction in pool money in future years.
ON THE MEND
Barring an unexpected setback, Segura should be ready to return to active duty April 21 when eligible to be activated from the 10-day disabled list.
Segura left the home opener April 10 because of a strained right hamstring, but club officials later said it’s unlikely he would have been placed on disabled list under the old rules, which required a 15-day absence.
When injured, Segura was batting .313 (10-for-32) through eight games with three stolen bases in three attempts.
JACKIE ROBINSON DAY
Saturday is MLB’s annual Jackie Robinson Day, which commemorates the day in 1947 when he broke the color line by appearing in a game for the Brooklyn Dodgers against the Boston Braves.
All on-field personnel in all games will wear No. 42 in Robinson’s memory, a tradition that Ken Griffey Jr. help start by flipping his No. 24 to 42 to mark the celebration in 1997.
Griffey suggested to then-commissioner Bud Selig that all players do the same in future years. Selig agreed and, in 1999, the tradition began for all on-field personnel.
Three things to note heading into Saturday’s pitching matchup between left-hander James Paxton and Texas right-hander Andrew Cashner:
***Paxton is 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in seven career starts against the Rangers. Cashner is 0-2 with a 3.80 ERA in four games against the Mariners, including 0-1 and 4.32 in two games at Safeco Field.
***Rougned Odor is 5-for-17 in his career against Paxton, while Elvis Andrus is 3-for-12. Mike Napoli is hitless in seven at-bats with three strikeouts, Jonathan Lucroy is 3-for-6 with a homer..
***Kyle Seager is 3-for-8 with a homer in his career against Cashner, while Robinson Cano is just 2-for-9. No other current Mariner has more than four career at-bats against Cashner.
Double-A Arkansas right-hander Max Povse pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings Thursday in a 9-0 victory at Corpus Christi (Astros) and has not allowed a run this season in 12 2/3 innings.
Povse was also cited Friday by Baseball America in its weekly Prospect Hot Sheet, which seeks to identify 20 prospects currently performing at a high level.
The Mariners acquired Povse, 23, in a Nov. 28 trade from Atlanta, and he entered the season ranked No. 9 on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.
Povse’s outing was just part of four shutouts pitched Thursday by Mariners’ affiliates. Chris Heston pitched a seven-inning complete game when Triple-A Tacoma gained a doubleheader split against El Paso (Padres) with a 5-0 victory.
Anthony Misiewicz, Matt Festa and Art Warren combined on a two-hitter in Hi-A Modesto’s 8-0 victory over visiting Lancaster (Rockies). Brandon Miller and Ronald Dominguez combined on a three-hitter in Lo-A Clinton’s 9-0 victory at Burlington (Angels).
The organization’s only loss came when Tacoma fell 1-0 in its opener against El Paso. Sam Giviglio allowed only four hits in a seven-inning complete game.
The Mariners entered the weekend with 18 doubles, which ranked second among American League clubs to Boston (19). Taylor Motter led the club with four doubles — all in the last two games…Nelson Cruz entered the weekend needing one RBI to reach 800 for his career…Kyle Seager entered the series with 56 career RBIs against the Rangers. The only active player with more RBIs against a single opponent is Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera with 60 against Cleveland…enigmatic outfielder Milton Bradley, who concluded a 12-year career by playing for the Mariners in 2010-11, turns 39 on Saturday.
It was 21 years ago Saturday — April 15, 1996 — that the Mariners, in their first game against the California Angels since winning a 1995 tie-breaker, rallied from an eight-run deficit for an 11-10 victory at the Kingdome.
The Mariners trailed 9-1 going into the bottom of the fourth inning but pulled even at 10-10 when Russ Davis capped a four-run seventh with a three-run double against Mark Eichhorn.
Jay Buhner’s RBI single in the eighth against Eichhorn completed the comeback. It was, at the time, the biggest comeback victory in franchise history. That distinction is now their 10-run comeback last year in a 16-13 victory at San Diego.
The Mariners and Rangers continue their three-game series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Lefty James Paxton (1-0, 0.00) will jump past Hisashi Iwakuma in the rotation and likely face Texas right-hander Andrew Cashner (5-11, 5.25 in 2016 with San Diego and Miami).
The Rangers are expected to activate Cashner from the disabled list prior to the game. He battled biceps tendinitis throughout spring training after signing a one-year deal as s free agent in the offseason.
The Mariners used Thursday’s open date to move Paxton ahead of Iwakuma without pitching him on shortened rest. The move separates the two lefties, Iwakuma and Ariel Miranda, in the rotation. Iwakuma will start Sunday.
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners